Effects of Weather Parameters on Endurance Running Performance: Discipline-specific Analysis of 1258 Races

Konstantinos Mantzios, Leonidas G. Ioannou, Zoe Panagiotaki, Styliani Ziaka, Julien D. Périard, Sébastien Racinais, Lars Nybo, Andreas D. Flouris

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    INTRODUCTION: This study evaluated how single or combinations of weather parameters (temperature, humidity, wind speed, and solar load) affect peak performance during endurance running events and identified which events are most vulnerable to varying weather conditions. METHODS: Results for the marathon, 50-km racewalking, 20-km racewalking, and 10,000-, 5000-, and 3000-m steeplechase were obtained from the official Web sites of large competitions. We identified meteorological data from nearby (8.9 ± 9.3 km) weather stations for 1258 races held between 1936 and 2019 across 42 countries, enabling analysis of 7867 athletes. RESULTS: The wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) across races ranged from -7°C to 33°C, with 27% of races taking place in cold/cool, 47% in neutral, 18% in moderate heat, 7% in high heat, and 1% in extreme heat conditions, according to the World Athletics classification. Machine learning decision trees (R2 = 0.21-0.58) showed that air temperature (importance score = 40%) was the most important weather parameter. However, when used alone, air temperature had lower predictive power (R2 = 0.04-0.34) than WBGT (R2 = 0.11-0.47). Conditions of 7.5°C-15°C WBGT (or 10°C-17.5°C air temperature) increased the likelihood for peak performance. For every degree WBGT outside these optimum conditions, performance declined by 0.3%-0.4%. CONCLUSION: More than one-quarter of endurance running events were held in moderate, high, or extreme heat, and this number reached one-half when marathons were excluded. All four weather parameters should be evaluated when aiming to mitigate the health and performance implications of exercising at high intensities in a hot environment with athletes adopting heat mitigation strategies when possible.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)153-161
    Number of pages9
    JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


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